Haleem is a savory porridge made with meat, wheat and lentils. A traditional favorite in India, this wholesome one pot meal is amazingly delicious and nutritious.
Wholesome Savory Porridge
Haleem is a classic delicacy in the Indian subcontinent and middle east. With its roots in Persian cuisine, this savory porridge is now prepared in India with meat, wheat, lentil, spices and herbs. It is somewhere between a stew and a soup in consistency; like the stoup referred to by Rachel Ray!
Traditionally it used to be slow cooked overnight in large wood-fired pots. And is especially popular during the fasting month of Ramadan. In Hyderabad, the city where I grew up in India, this is a must-have specialty at Iftar time (breaking fast). So, along with biryani, Hyderabad is famous for its haleem.
During other times of the year it is a popular street food as well as a delicacy on fine dining menus. This wholesome dish is great for feeding a crowd.
Why You Should Cook Haleem
- One pot meal.
- It is a traditional favorite.
- Amazing nutrition potential.
- Make ahead possible and freezer friendly.
Meat, Wheat, Lentils, Onions, Ginger, Garlic, Yogurt, Spices, Herbs, Oil and Ghee.
Meat: Lamb, goat or beef is traditional. But you can try chicken or veal too. I like to use meat with bones for extra flavor. If you use boneless meat, try to use stock as the cooking liquid.
Grains: Traditional recipes use whole soft-wheat grains sold as “haleem wheat” at Indian grocery stores. But you can use cracked wheat that is widely available. I also like to add pearl barley as it gives a nice consistency.
Lentils: Use a combination of dehusked Indian lentils, such as, channa dal (split baby chickpeas), masoor dal (red lentils), moong dal (split mung beans) and urad dal (split black lentils).
Spices: Garam masala, ground coriander, ground cumin, chili powder, turmeric, ground black pepper.
Herbs: Cilantro, mint
Oil and Ghee: I like to use an oil with high smoking point for frying the onions. A drizzle of grass fed ghee will make this dish taste wonderful.
Lemon: I don’t like to stir in lemon juice into my haleem while cooking. Serve it on the side to use as per taste.
This is a simple overview and full recipe is at the end of the post.
- Soak wheat and lentils.
- Fry onions until brown and crisp.
- Cook meat with onions, ginger, garlic, yogurt and spices.
- Boil wheat and lentils until very soft.
- Discard bones and shred meat.
- Blend wheat and lentils until smooth.
- Cook meat with its sauce, wheat-lentil mixture and herbs.
- Garnish with toppings.
How to Serve
This savory porridge is served hot and topped with ghee, chopped herbs and fried onions. Toasted cashews, sliced chilies, julienned ginger are all optional toppings. Serve lemon wedges on the side.
You can serve haleem as a meal by itself at anytime of the week. Or a side dish at parties and buffets. Often flatbreads are served on the side.
Make Ahead and Storage
Haleem is a great recipe for make ahead preparations. The wheat and lentil mixture can be cooked and processed ahead. Meat can be cooked, processed and stored too.
Cooked haleem can be refrigerated for 5 to 6 days. It can be frozen in small portions for couple months. Thaw and reheat, adding water to adjust the consistency. Serve with the toppings.
Haleem is egg free, high protein and soy free.
- Dairy Free: Skip yogurt. Use only oil and no ghee.
- Gluten Free: Substitute wheat and barley with short grain rice.
- Nut Free: Don’t use cashews.
Health Benefits and Nutrition Facts
This is a great example of a 'healthy and tasty' dish that is also a traditional favorite. The combination of meat, lentils and grains makes it a very satisfying and wholesome dish. Onions, spices and herbs further amp up the flavor and nutrient value.
Haleem is a good source of high quality protein, fiber and complex carbohydrates. This paired with a small green salad will make a really nourishing meal.
Choose grass fed lean meat to prepare this recipe. Trim off any extra fat. And cook most of the meal in healthy oils such as avocado oil or olive oil. Just a drizzle of grass fed ghee on the top is sufficient.
More Indian Recipes
- Hyderabadi Lamb Biryani
- Dal Recipe
- Paratha (Indian Flaky Flatbread)
- Kheer (Indian Rice Pudding)
- Meat Patties With Potatoes (Cutlets)
★ DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE? PLEASE COMMENT AND GIVE IT A STAR RATING BELOW!
Wheat and Lentils
- 1½ cups avocado oil or peanut oil, most will be leftover
- 3 yellow onions large, thinly sliced, 4 cups
- 2 lbs lamb with bones (or other meats)
- 1½ tablespoons grated ginger
- 1½ tablespoons grated garlic
- 1 cup yogurt whisked
- 4 teaspoons garam masala see note
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 1½ teaspoons salt adjust per taste
- 2 green chilies chopped, remove seeds for less spicy
- 2 quarts water or lamb stock, more if needed
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- 1 tablespoon chopped mint
- 2 tablespoons ghee
- Fried Onions, Fresh Mint, Fresh Cilantro, Cashew Halves, Lemon Wedges, Ghee
- Soak haleem wheat in water overnight (soak 30 minutes if using cracked wheat). Soak the lentils for 30 minutes.
- Heat oil in a wide deep frying pan and fry sliced onions in batches until light golden brown and crisp. Do not crowd the pan. Drain onions on paper towels and set aside (See note for easy haleem).
- In a cooking pot, heat 1 tablespoon oil and brown the meat. Add ginger, garlic and sauté couple minutes. Then add yogurt and cook 5 minutes.
- Next add half the fried onions, 3 teaspoons garam masala, ground coriander, ground cumin, chili powder, turmeric, ground black pepper, salt, green chilies and stir couple minutes.
- Add two cups of water or stock and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat, place a lid and let it simmer for 1 to 2 hours until meat is well done.
- While the meat is simmering, take wheat, barley, lentils and 4 cups of water or stock in another large cooking pot. Bring it to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for one hour until the grains and lentils are mushy.
- Separate the bones from meat and discard. Shred the meat very well using forks, potato masher or meat pounder and add it back to the meat sauce.
- In a large cooking pot, combine shredded meat with the gravy, grains-lentils mixture, 2 tbsp cilantro, 1 tbsp mint and bring it to a boil. Lower heat and let it simmer for 30 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon garam masala and simmer 10 minutes. Use extra water or stock as needed
- Drizzle ghee on top. Garnish with remaining fried onions, chopped cilantro, chopped mint, toasted cashews. Serve lemon wedges on the side.
- Lentils: Use a combination of split dehusked lentils — chana dal (split baby chickpeas), masoor dal (red lentils), moong dal (split mung beans), urad dal (split black lentils).
- Meats: You can also use beef, goat, veal or chicken. Adjust the cooking time.
- Onions: Use a mandolin slicer for thinly sliced onions.
- Storage: Refrigerate leftovers for 5 to 6 days. Freeze haleem in small portions for couple months.
- Flavored Ghee Topping: Heat some ghee, turn off the stove and stir in pinches of paprika, turmeric, dried mint and drizzle on haleem.
- Optional Toppings: Toasted cashews, sliced chilies, julienned ginger.
- Haleem Spice Blend: For this recipe, instead of garam masala you can grind together - 8 green cardamom pods, 2 black cardamom pods, 8 cloves, 4 inch cinnamon stick, 2 tablespoons dried rose petals, 1 teaspoon shahjeera, ½ teaspoon black pepper and ½ teaspoon mace.
- Readymade Haleem Mix: Indian stores carry Shaan and National brand haleem boxes with readymade mixtures of wheat and lentils. Their spice packets are too pungent. I make my own as above.
- Oil: Most of the oil will be leftover after frying.
- Slow cooker: Haleem can be slow cooked to a perfect consistency as the long cooking time will help soften the meat, grains and lentils very well.
- Instant pot, Pressure cooker: These devices will cut down the cooking time and especially suitable for my easy haleem below.
- Easy Haleem: (easier only if you dont want to fry onions)
- Heat ½ cup oil and sauté onions over medium high heat until golden brown, for 20 to 25 minutes. Set half the browned onions aside for garnish later. Discard unused oil as needed.
- Add meat to the pot and brown it. Then add ginger, garlic, yogurt, spices, salt, chillies and sauté for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Add drained cracked wheat (don't use whole haleem wheat), lentils and herbs. Add 1½ quarts water or stock and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat and let it simmer for 2 hours, stirring in between, adding water as needed and until meat is well done.
- Discard bones and shred the meat. Blend the wheat and lentils. Add meat back and simmer.
- Top with ghee, fried onions, garam masala and chopped herbs.